Dominica to Îles des Saintes
Our sail from Dominica to Îles des Saintes presented us with uncharacteristically flat seas. The wind also blew in the right direction all the way. This was good news for the 50% of crew with a chronic hangover. The boat didn’t roll or jolt around and there was little to do but sit back and enjoy the view.
As we came out of Portsmouth, a catamaran joined us going in the same direction. I don’t know what these guys had done, but they had piqued the interest of a customs cutter. The grey customs boat steamed over from over a mile away and followed them only a few metres from their stern – close enough to scare the trousers off the innocent – for at least half an hour. Perhaps the crew of the catamaran and the customs officers were taking over the radio, but whatever was going on, it took a long time to resolve. Eventually, much to the relief of the catamaran crew I imagine, the customs boat fell back and headed offshore.
Fortunately, we had no such drama and sailed into Îles des Saintes with nothing to report. Equally fortunate was that several mooring balls were available in the harbour off Terre-de-Haut. So, we grabbed one near to town but far enough away to avoid the noise. The mooring buoys here are brilliant. They have a huge pickup loop on top, which makes them easy to hook and pass ropes through them. We haven’t seen these anywhere else, but I hope they catch on – they make things so much easier when arriving.
It was Easter Monday bank holiday (2nd April) and the office with the clearance computer was closed. However, the man from Les Saintes Mooring services (LMS), who arrived in his launch to collect our 13 Euro per night mooring fee, explained that the office opens on Tuesday morning and it wasn’t a problem to leave clearance until then.
So, while Maria worked on eradicating her hangover with some sleep I decided to have a look round underwater, snorkelling over to a wreck site 100 metres ahead of us. The water here is exceptionally clear and it is possible to see the whole of the sunken boat (a large power boat) from the surface. There are so many fish here, it’s like staring down at a tropical fish tank. Tropical fish of all colours swim around and inside the wreck – it’s a beautiful sight.
Back at the boat, and to more practical matters, I scrubbed a bit of Lady Jane’s hull and the bottom of the dinghy, before settling in the cockpit to read a book. As sundown approached, a couple in a dinghy floated by, each with a drink in hand. And a few minutes later they appeared back at the side of Lady Jane: ‘We saw your burgee and came back to say hello,’ they said. Eric and Annie are, like us, members of the Ocean Cruising Club. They explained that they were enjoying a cocktail cruise around the bay when they saw our OCC burgee hoisted on our port spreader. We chatted a while, then after Maria appeared, feeling somewhat better, we invited them onboard.
Eric and Annie said they would go back to their boat to get some ice. They returned not only with ice, but saucisson, cheese and crackers too. That was very generous and very welcome. We whiled away a couple of hours together and had a great evening. They, also like us, are also heading north to the US.
The next morning we packed the boat papers into a waterproof bag and headed into town in our dinghy. The LMS office is upstairs in a building to the right of the dinghy dock, and it’s the same procedure to clear in here as it is in Martinique. All that’s required is to input crew, boat and trip information into the computer, print the result, then take the paper to the counter to get it stamped. All this for 2 Euros. After that, we were legally in the country and free to explore Terre-de-Haut.
The town of Terre-de-Haut is satisfyingly pretty, just as many people would imagine a Caribbean town to be. The houses are painted in pastel shades lifted straight from a French artist’s palette. And the Mairie’s office is no different; it might be formal, but it looks fun. And that’s the theme of town. Whether it’s food or drink, water sports or scenery, there’s plenty for everyone. It’s possible to rent an electric bike or golf cart (or a petrol scooter for those less environmentally sensitive) to experience this. But we decided to walk, choosing instead to slowly soak up the vibe.
We enjoyed it here but, as hurricane season is getting close, we need to keep moving north. So we decided to leave the next morning to sail to Guadaloupe. Fortunately, because Îles des Saintes is part of Guadeloupe, there is no need to clear customs before leaving. So, early on 4th April, in a gentle morning breeze, we slipped our lines and enjoyed a hassle-free departure heading towards Deshaies.